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Latin gender of ships

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Old Wednesday 3rd June 2020, 22:13   #1
PScofield
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Latin gender of ships

Hi all,

I have been pondering this issue and thought I would ask the forum, as there are some Latin scholars amongst the readers.

My question is about the name Pterodroma magentae (Giglioli & Salvadori, 1869)

The OD is here.

It is clear that the honoree in the name is the Italian man-o-war The Magenta.

A simplified understanding of the ICZN code would be that an -ae ending signifies honouring a female. So for a while, I assumed that the spelling of this name was such to honour the ship Magenta because ships in English are feminine and the gender of the Latin word for “ship” — Navis — is feminine.

The Magenta, by the way, was named after the 1859 Battle of Magenta. There was considerable confusion in the early 20th century when it was mistakenly believed that Magenta Petrels were so named because they were purple!

But then I learned that warships in German, Spanish (and I think Italian) are actually masculine.

But then I discovered the ICZN code 31.1.1:

A species-group name, if a noun in the genitive case formed from a personal name that is Latin, or from a modern personal name that is or has been latinized, is to be formed in accordance with the rules of Latin grammar.

and the example they give is

"Nicolaus Poda, even though the name of a man, if accepted as a Latin name, gives podae"

So my question is: does the forum agree that Giglioli & Salvadori were using the rules of Latin grammar when they coined the name - or was it an anthropomorphic signification of a ship as feminine?? As a corollary are there examples of ships being considered feminine in Bird Etymology?
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 00:29   #2
Calalp
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PScofield View Post
...
So my question is: does the forum agree that Giglioli & Salvadori were using the rules of Latin grammar when they coined the name - or was it an anthropomorphic signification of a ship as feminine?? As a corollary are there examples of ships being considered feminine in Bird Etymology?
Paul, I know very little (read; nothing) of Latin grammar, but I mentioned a few ships, fairly recently, here, and I'm pretty sure there are even more of them.
Quote:
[...]
... Remember that vessels/ships are not unheard of in scientific names (like for example/s; marchesae, questi, or vegae).
[...]
If of any help/use?

Björn
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 00:57   #3
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Likely someone else is better at explaining this than me, but in a species name such as Pterodroma magentae, the main rule is that the gender of the first part determines which gender is used for the second part.

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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 07:36   #4
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The Latin genitive of a word ending in -a ends in -ae, independent of gender.
For example: agricola (farmer, male) has the genitive agricolae.
This is done wrong time and time again by descriptors coming up with names ending in -ai, such as Nystalus obamai, which should have been N. obamae.

(Niels: if I say "Niels's mother", you don't suddenly become female do you?
Latin works in the same way: as the name is literally "Magenta's Petrel", the gender of Petrel is irrelevant for that of Magenta).

Last edited by Xenospiza : Thursday 4th June 2020 at 07:43.
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 07:50   #5
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This is done wrong time and time again by descriptors coming up with names ending in -ai, such as Nystalus obamai, which should have been N. obamae.
In the case of a patronym, it seems to me that it is different. Since he honors Barack Obama, a man, it must end with an i.
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 08:52   #6
l_raty
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It's unclear to me that this would fall within the realm of application of 31.1.1 -- this article is about names formed "from a personal name", and it would take a rather broad definition of "personal name" to make it encompass the name of a ship.

But, anyway, 'Magenta' is here treated as a Latin noun with a nominative singular ending in -a; such words follow the first Latin declension, and have a genitive singular in -ae. Thus there is no conflict between the formation of this name and the rules of Latin grammar.

Such words are mostly feminine in Latin, but a significant minority are masculine (typically words that denote male persons/entities -- nauta, -ae, a sailor, because sailors were men; Numa, -ae, a masculine Roman proper name, as in Numa Pompilius, a Roman king; some names of rivers, in which the masculine noun fluvius was understood; some names of mountains, in which the masculine noun mons was understood), or of common gender (words that can denote male and female persons/entities -- e.g., incola, -ae, an inhabitant: inhabitants can be men and/or women, the word is masculine if applied specifically to men or used generally, without distinguishing between men and women, but feminine if applied specifically to women).
Latin grammar does not require that Magenta be feminine to have magentae as its genitive case -- from the moment that the word ends in -a in the nominative singular, -ae is the normal genitive singular ending, irrespective of any gender consideration. However, in the Italian text of the OD https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/39827371, the authors used Magenta as a feminine name ("la pirocorvetta italiana Magenta", "della Magenta", "la Magenta").

Ship names can be either masculine or feminine in Italian, presumably (as in French) depending on which type of ship is implied. "Corvetta" is feminine, hence "la Magenta", but "transatlantico" is masculine, hence "il France" and "il Titanic".
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 09:21   #7
l_raty
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In the case of a patronym, it seems to me that it is different. Since he honors Barack Obama, a man, it must end with an i.
The Code explicitly allows both -- obamae is correctly formed under 30.1.1, obamai is correctly formed under 30.1.2 https://code.iczn.org/formation-and-...ames/#art-31-1
(-ae is what must in principle be done in Latin; -ai [bisyllabic, to be pronounced "a-ee", while -ae is monosyllabic] occurs in Latin only as an occasional variant, in poetry, where it is used to add a syllable to a verse that would otherwise be too short. It looks out of place in a standard Latin text, its use in nomenclature being more of a taxonomist's invention, than real Latin... But, anyway, I'm not sure that biologists care a lot about "real Latin", these days.)

Last edited by l_raty : Thursday 4th June 2020 at 13:39.
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Old Thursday 4th June 2020, 15:29   #8
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If the ship is named after the battle, and the battle is named after the place, and the place is named after a man, shouldn’t it be Male?

Derivation of Magenta: Maxentius (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius Augustus;[2] c. 276 – 28 October 312) was Roman Emperor from 306 to 312.
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 21:55   #9
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The Code explicitly allows both -- obamae is correctly formed under 30.1.1, obamai is correctly formed under 30.1.2 https://code.iczn.org/formation-and-...ames/#art-31-1
(-ae is what must in principle be done in Latin; -ai [bisyllabic, to be pronounced "a-ee", while -ae is monosyllabic] occurs in Latin only as an occasional variant, in poetry, where it is used to add a syllable to a verse that would otherwise be too short. It looks out of place in a standard Latin text, its use in nomenclature being more of a taxonomist's invention, than real Latin... But, anyway, I'm not sure that biologists care a lot about "real Latin", these days.)
My understanding of the Latin is slightly different.

obamae is unproblematic: it's the gen. sing. of obama understood as a 1st declension noun.

obamai is just a different (and very common) way of Latinizing the name Obama, i.e. as 2nd declension masc. Obamaus, in the same way as my surname might be Latinized as Bellus.

No need for recourse to non-standard poetic forms.
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Old Sunday 21st June 2020, 22:12   #10
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Hi,

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Originally Posted by PScofield View Post
But then I learned that warships in German, Spanish (and I think Italian) are actually masculine.
Hm, I don't believe that is correct as far as German is concerned.

Where did you learn about this?

Regards,

Henning
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Old Monday 22nd June 2020, 01:03   #11
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Whilst this may not be relevant anymore (given the explanations given) it seems my confusion was because I read of warships sentences such as "der Panzerkreuzer wurde versenkt" where of course "der" is a masculine pronoun.

BUT I found on the internet a useful explanation (that I include here for those interested):

- When talking about a particular ship (e.g. by her name) a ship's basically and generally referred to as if female (she/her = 'sie'/'ihr') -> "die Graf Spee", "die Emden", "die V-25", "die Bismarck", "die Großer Kurfürst" (sic!), ...

So re. the Graf Spee one could say "sie wurde versenkt" (she's been scuttled).

- When referring to a ship as a 'thing-in-itself' (i.e. a ship) and 'das Schiff' being a neuter noun the neutral form can also be used.

E.g. after scuttling the Graf Spee: "es wurde versenkt", i.e. "das Schiff wurde versenkt". (It/the ship has been been scuttled).

BUT when referring to a ship by it's class the pronoun of the class can also be used.

E.g. after scuttling the Graf Spee: "er wurde versenkt", i.e. "der Panzerkreuzer wurde versenkt" (He/the armored cruiser has been scuttled).
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Old Monday 22nd June 2020, 05:20   #12
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Similarly for French ships. Names may be masculine or feminine. When referring to the ship by name, the gender of the name applies: "la Normandie" and "le Languedoc" are both Aquitaine-class frigates. But sentences are commonly constructed using another noun (vessel, ship, frigate) as the subject, in which case it's the gender of the other noun that applies: "la fregate Surcouf", even though Surcouf is the name of a man (famous corsair and slave trader).
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Old Monday 22nd June 2020, 10:58   #13
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by PScofield View Post
BUT I found on the internet a useful explanation (that I include here for those interested):
Not bad, but it's actually even simpler than that: Genders in German are arbitrary, and the question of the gender of a ship only ever arises when you're referring to it by the ship's name.

Every other way of referring to the ship automatically uses whatever gender the referring noun happens to have anyway, and so it's no different from German language outside a naval context.

Regards,

Henning
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